Many people mistakenly think that eating a healthy plant-based diet has to be expensive but it couldn’t be further from the truth! We reveal the secret and surprising ways to ensure your healthy diet doesn’t break the bank. Learn simple yet effective strategies to keep costs down and ensure enjoyment while protecting your long-term wellbeing. There are some tricks to creating cheap healthy meals which still taste great.

Do cheap healthy meals really exist?

Healthy food is often portrayed as boring, bland and expensive; you can thank the TV and mass media for that, but it’s simply not true. Lazily prepared healthy food can indeed be boring and a lack of planning will lead to higher costs. However, making time to research recipes, try new flavors and textures while using your imagination will lead to some delicious and satisfying treats. Food should be enjoyed (deprivation diets are not good for you physically or mentally) and it is absolutely possible to create delicious healthy foods on a budget when you know some of the secrets!

Waste not want not?

Fact: Between 30% and 50% of all food is wasted, at a huge cost to the environment, the farmers and our wallets.

Sadly nearly half of the food we produce does not make it onto our plates or into our bellies. Ineffective agricultural processes, stringent aesthetic requirements, poor planning and a lack of knowledge is costing us dearly. While a lot of the waste lies with the supermarkets and producers, there is still a significant amount of food which is thrown away by consumers which is perfectly good to eat.

Cooking too much, not knowing what to do with leftovers and fears about food hygiene and ‘gone off’ products are the leading causes of household waste but it doesn’t need to be this way!

Reducing Rubbish and Recording Results

The key to reducing waste is planning – what are you going to eat, when and how much? Judging how much to cook can be tricky, especially when you are hungry with eyes bigger than your belly. However, recording your results will help you prepare the correct amount next time. Note down what you cook, e.g. “1 cup of rice”, and how well it met your needs. “too much for 2 people”, then next time you can try ¾ of a cup and see how that works out. The same for vegetables and other ingredients, note down how much you use and the amount that was leftover.

Brown Bananas and Luscious Leftovers

Gone off fruit is naturally sweeter and unless it has got to the oozing and dripping stage is perfectly fine to eat – but may look less appealing than in its pristine condition. Bananas are an excellent example, the browner they get the sweeter they become. Over ripe fruit like apples and pears can be cooked into a compot (stewed with sweet spices) or frozen into ice-cream (freeze for a few hours and then blend with coconut cream using a cheap hand blender). How about cinnamon apple compot with coconut and banana ice-cream for a delicious, decadent, sugar-free, diary-free, cost free way to use up your aging fruit!

Leftover vegetables and savory food can also be easily transformed into delicious veggie burgers. Take virtually any leftover cooked vegetables, mash them up or blend them, add something to bind it (soaked chia seeds or ground flax seeds are best) and add some nice flavors (how about garlic and herbs for a French style veggie pattie?). If your mixture is a bit wet, simply add some non-wheat flour (like chickpea flour) to make it a bit firmer. Then grill, fry or even (this is my most lazy favorite way) put into a sandwich toaster or waffle iron! You can experiment with vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes, leftover rice, nuts and seeds – anything really and you will be amazed at the simple deliciousness that can be achieved with these fool proof and free up-cycled vegetable burgers!

The Elements of Enjoyment

A crucial step in food waste management is ensuring you enjoy the food – making you more likely to be licking the plate clean than throwing half of it in the bin! By working out what you enjoy it makes it easier to factor enjoyment into every meal and into your budget. Do you prefer crunchy foods? Do you like to have a sauce? Do you like spicy foods? Do you need a dessert? Work out what makes food delicious for you! Nut and seeds butters and sauces are a very simple way of adding flavor and interest, simply blend some nuts or soaked seeds with a little water and see what happens!

Healthy diets become more expensive when we don’t feel satisfied as we end up snacking and ‘treating’ ourselves – the need to feel mentally satisfied with your food is really important. When you enjoy a meal you typically have less food waste and take the time to plan and prepare more thoroughly, you also feel more satisfied. Cheaper ingredients can be the focus of your meal while more expensive ones add decadence and increase appreciation.

The Tricks of Taste

We perceive five basic tastes through our tongue and our flavor perception is enhanced by our sense of smell. We also have regions of the brain that respond positively to sweet and fatty foods – evolutionarily this was designed to help us survive by ‘rewarding’ us for eating the most energy dense foods. We also enjoy looking at foods (the first bite is always with the eyes!) and most of us appreciate a variety of textures too.

So, if you want to make something taste good you need to stimulate as many of the senses (taste, smell, sight and touch) and the brains reward centers. Adding healthy fats (like nut oils or coconut milk) and natural sweetness (for example dried fruits) and exotic tastes (from healing spices and herbs) quickly and cheaply increase the fun you can have with your food! Try cooking some rice then adding fresh herbs, sweet spices, dried fruit like sultanas or apricots, finely cut raw vegetables and some healthy fat – you will be amazed how delicious this is!

Quality over Quantity

Sadly our society has trended towards bulk over quality, but, bigger is not better! Higher quality ingredients, such as organic fruit and vegetables, contain more nutrition per gram, have more flavour, less toxins and typically increase satisfaction.

Fact: The body has a natural ‘sense’ of what nutrients it needs and will continue to eat until nourished, this means that choosing the most nutritious ingredients will naturally curb your appetite and you can get more value from eating less.

Actionable Advice

Its as easy as 1, 2, 3……..

Step 1: Plan to Enjoy it: research recipes which satisfy your body, belly and brain!

Step 2: Reduce and Reuse: record the amount you cook, recycle leftovers and freeze your fruit!

Step 3: Increase the taste: choose higher quality ingredients and add natural fats and sweetness

Are you ready for your cheap healthy meals made exclusively with plants?

Positive Propaganda

Together we can overcome the immense advertising budgets and fraudulent propaganda of the meat and dairy industries. Each one of us has the power to instigate massive change and powerful global action. Be strong in your conviction and share your truth with the world. Share this article now on your favourite social media platforms; influence others with a positive message.